EUGENE, Ore. – USC vs. Duke.
The two have won nine of the last 17 national titles and the titans of women’s college golf over the past two decades went head-to-head Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship.
USC was ranked No. 2 in country. Duke was fifth.
From the start at Eugene Country Club it seemed like it would be a tall task for the Blue Devils to pull out the victory. Their best player, Leona Maguire, has battled vertigo-like symptoms all week and has felt dizzy and unbalanced for much of the past few days. Celine Boutier, a former player of the year, has struggled mightily with the yips for the past month and shot 80-77-84-79 in stroke play to finish last.
Those two question marks made Duke’s mission seem daunting, but they blitzed the Trojans, 4-1, to easily win and advance to the semifinals against 2015 NCAA champion Stanford, which beat South Carolina 3-2.
“In order to beat a great team like that you have to do all things right,” said Duke coach Dan Brooks, winner of six NCAA titles. “Early on it didn’t look like we had anything.
“We have to play good golf with a lot of patience, a lot of belief.”
For USC it’s a quick end to a terrific season in which they won six tournaments, including the Pac-12 Championship and the NCAA Stanford Regional.
“We were just not making any putts,” USC coach Andrea Gaston said. “The team obviously poured their hearts into it, we played really well the first couple days. But it was really tough out there not seeing any of those putts falling in.
“It’s disappointing, of course. We’re here to win. I know that our team worked awfully hard this year in preparing for this. You come into this pretty confident. But this is just another tournament and you either have your game or you don’t.”
Stanford just keeps on cruising, although they needed to count on senior Mariah Stackhouse down the stretch to close out her match late.
For Stanford, coach Anne Walker says the message all along has been simple. Now that it’s getting closer to the end, that will not change.
“The reality is we’re not defending anything, we’re literally trying to chase something,” Walker said. “We won last year but this tournament is not ours, all year we’ve been careful about using the word ‘defend’ and making sure we’re using the word ‘pursue.’"
The other semifinal will pit Pac-12 foes UCLA and Washington against each other. UCLA, the No. 1 seed from stroke-play qualifying, easily ousted tournament host Oregon, 4-0-1. The Huskies defeated Virginia 3-1-1 to advance.